Archive for December, 2008

Who doesn’t love Bruins’ fun facts?

Friday, December 26th, 2008
That's my puck, baby...don't you ever touch my puck!

That's my puck, baby...don'tyou ever touch my puck!

Here’s some Bruins stats and factoids to chew on coming out of their two-day Christmas break…these all come courtesy of Bruins media relations mavens Eric Tosi and Matt Chmura, who do a great of getting hacks like me exactly what we need to relay it out to the good folks of Bruins Nation. That would be you…assuming you’re good, of course.

HOME ICE ADVANTAGE: Boston has won their last 13 contests on home ice. This win streak is their longest such stretch since a 16-game home win streak from January 10 – March 25, 1976. It is the longest home winning streak in the league this season and is the fifth longest in team history behind streaks of 20, 19, 16 and 15. Their last loss at home came on October 23 against Toronto.

BEANTOWN BOUND:The Bruins have 13 games in January, 10 of which are at home. This includes a six-game homestand to start the New Year from January 1 through January 13. January is quite different schedule-wise from December, when the Bruins had 13 games, 9 of which were on the road.

HIT MAN:Winger Milan Lucic currently leads the NHL in hits with 135. Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik is second behind Lucic with 124.

COURTESY OF THE BOSTON BRUINS WEEK AHEAD STAT MACHINE…The Bruins currently have an NHL-best 11 players that are +10 or better. New Jersey and Chicago have the second most, as they both have six players who are +10 or better.  The 11 Bruins are: Marc Savard (+21), David Krejci (+19), Blake Wheeler (+19), Dennis Wideman (+17), Milan Lucic (+16), Phil Kessel (+16), Zdeno Chara (+15), Matt Hunwick (+13), Shane Hnidy (+13), Michael Ryder (+12) and Mark Stuart (+10).

BRUINS ON THE NHL LEADERBOARD (AS OF DECEMBER 26):
-The Bruins lead the Eastern Conference in wins (25), fewest losses (5), goals for (126), goals against (77) and points (54)
-The Bruins lead the NHL in goals for (126) and are second in goals against (77, Minnesota 76).

-The Bruins own the NHL’s third ranked power play overall (26.6%). They also have the best power play in the league at home (36.1%)
-Marc Savard ranks tied for fourth in the league in points with 40 (E. Malkin, PIT 58)

-Phil Kessel ranks fourth in the league in goals scored with 21 (J. Carter, PHI 26)

-Marc Savard ranks fourth in the league in assists with 29 (E. Malkin, PIT 43)
-Marc Savard ranks second in the league in plus/minus with a +21 (E. Malkin, +22) while Blake Wheeler and David Krejci are tied for fourth at +19.

Hunwick is second among NHL rookies in +/1 this season. The player he's trailing? Why it's Blake Wheeler, of course.

Hunwick is second among NHL rookies in +/1 this season. The player he's trailing? Why it's Blake Wheeler, of course.

-Blake Wheeler ranks fifth among rookies in points with 20 (D. Brassard, CBJ 25), tied for third in goals scored with11 (M. Grabovski, TOR 12) and first in plus/minus

-Matt Hunwick ranks fifth among rookies in assists with 11 (K. Versteeg, CHI 17) and second in plus/minus with +13 (B. Wheeler, BOS +18)

-Manny Fernandez ranks thrid in Goals Against Average with a 2.09 mark (S. Mason, CBJ 1.98)

-Tim Thomas ranks second in Goals Against Average with a 2.04 mark, second in Save Percentage (.935%) behind Craig Anderson (.940%) and second in shutouts with 3 (R. Luongo, VAN 5).

That’s it for now, but come back to Pucks with Haggs shortly and I’m going to have a little post-Christmas Wish list for each member of the Boston Bruins over the final 48 games of the NHL regular season — and then, of course, the playoffs.

A Few Kessel scoring streak stats to ponder

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008
Time for the Kessel kid to start a new scoring streak

Time for the Kessel kid to start a new scoring streak

A few stats to pore over as a final wooden stick salute to the recently ended 18-game scoring streak by Phil Kessel that really propped him up onto the national spotlight as a goal-scoring force to be reckoned with this season.

As I blog these items up, I’m sure Old Time Hockey Bruin Bronco Horvath is having himself a Miami Dolphins-style champagne party this morning on Cape Cod to celebrate that his Bruins-record 22 straight games with a point during the 1959-60 season remains gleefully intact. You’ve got to root for anybody named Bronco, and lament the fact there aren’t enough hockey players with nicknames like that anymore. In those days we would would have heard names like “Crazy Legs” Kessel or Milan The Terrible, but instead we have to settle for the much more logical Kess and Looch. Ah, well…here’s the stats:

–Kessel finished with 28 points in the 18 games with an equal split of 14 goals and 14 assists, though the young winger has been held without a goal in his last three games leading up to the holiday break.

–Kessel was a solid +14 during the 18-game scoring stretch [though I feel obligated to put the goes-without-saying-with the obvious disclaimer that +/- isn't the end-all, be-all stat for judging hockey players], and amazingly produced only one minus game during the entire five week plus time span of the Kessell Run (my own Star Wars geek way of describing the 18-game run…extra bonus points if you catch my reference and double dog bonus points for anyone that can name me the character that referenced it).

–The last time Kessel was held scoreless before last night’s playoff-style 2-0 win over a very competitive New Jersey Devils squad: a Nov. 12 2-1 shootout win over the Chicago Blackhawks that was cinched by a memorable P.J. Axelsson shootout score. That’ s a grand total of 40 days and nights between getting blanked on the scoresheet.

Here’s the video of the Axelsson courtesy of youtube and shot in true “You were there” style with the backs of people’s heads obscuring the action…seems like a million hockey years ago and is a testament to the sheer length that Kessel went streaking.

–Kessel totaled 57 shots during the 18-game scoring streak, an average of 3.17 shots per game for the B’s leading lamplighter. Kessel also managed three power play scores — and two of his three game-winners on the season – among the 14 goals tallied during the consecutive game-scoring streak.

–Kessel averaged 16:28 of total ice time during the 18-game scoring streak, which is right in line with the career-high 16:50 of ice that the 21-year-old is averaging this season.

The Goal of the Year in the NHL?

Monday, December 22nd, 2008
Boy am I glad I took this sweater and hat off...chicks dig the Spoked B

Boy am I glad I took this sweater and hat off...chicks dig the Spoked B

Here’s a look at Blake Wheeler’s amazing short-handed goal from last night’s 6-3 stomping over the St. Louis Blues. Wheeler’s lamp-lighter is one that B’s fans will be talking about for the rest of the season and an appropriate catalyst for the “Blake Wheeler as Calder Trophy Winner” hype machine that should really begin gaining some traction. Wheeler basically powered and dangled his way through four St. Louis Blues defenders while killing off a penalty, and somehow flipped a shot past Blues goalie Manny Legace after putting on his puck-handling feat of strength to get to the opposing cage.

Wheeler is now tied with Blues center Patrick Berglund and Maple Leafs center Mikhail Grabovski in rookie goals scored with his 11 strikes in 33 games this season and holds a commanding lead with the +19 number built up as a trigger man on the B’s explosive third line.

Here’s Wheeler’s biggest competition as he continues to build a Rookie of the Year resume: Columbus Blue Jackets center Derek Brassard (10 goals, 15 assists), Chicago Blackhawks winger Kris Versteeg (8 goals, 17 assists), Berglund (11 goals, 10 assists), Grabovski (11 goals, 9 assists), Vancouver Canucks Jannik Hansen (4 goals, 13 assists), Pittsburgh Penguins’ defenseman Alex Goligoski (4 goals, 11 assists) and LA Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (3 goals, 8 assists). There’s still obviously a big, honking amount of the hockey  season to still be played, but Wheeler is smack dab in the middle of the mix right now and has to be considered one of the early favorites. It also appears that top-scorer Brassard will be out of the picture after suffering a right shoulder injury that will likely require season-ending surgery.

Just what Boston needs: another young up-and-coming superstar about to make a sizeable impact on the pro sports scene.

The 22-year-old power forward is on pace for 50 points this season (27 goals, 23 assists) and is a brawny, puck-possession cog on Boston’s electric third line that’s thrown up 45 points and an amazing +31 over their last 11 games. The third line has become Boston’s main scoring threat over the last month of hockey, and continues to gain steam here in the season’s first half. The only question now is whether Wheeler will hit the “rookie wall” as he doubles the amount of games he might have skated in at the University of Minnesota as a senior this season.

But that’s a query for another day. Here’s last night’s goal because, as always, a moving picture says a 1,000 hockey words:

As an added bonus — and to show you that Wheeler isn’t really a stranger to the whole highlight reel goal thang in his career — here’s an amazing game-winning score he racked up while still with the Golden Gophers. This seems like as good a time as any to ring the bell once again for B’s General Manager Peter Chiarelli for creating the kind of hockey environment that persuaded Wheeler to choose Boston over other NHL destinations on the map. Here’s the highlight reel goal for the University of Minnesota, something Wheeler seems to be making a habit of at a ripe young hockey age.

Chiarelli: Bergeron suffered a concussion, no timetable for return

Sunday, December 21st, 2008
Chiarelli: There's no timetable for Bergeron's return

Chiarelli: There's no timetable for Bergeron's return

Following speculation as to Patrice Bergeron’s condition after yesterday’s scary collision with Dennis Seidenberg at mid-ice, General Manager Peter Chiarelli released a statement through the Bruins this afternoon. Bergeron sustained a concussion, received treatment and underwent testing at Mass General Hospital, and there is no timetable for the young center’s return to the ice.

The 23-year-old will sit out at least a week per order of the NHL rules on concussions, which mandates a seven day stay on injured reserve for all players with head injuries. This goes without saying, but expect the Bruins coaching staff to move slowly and deliberately on this one. Here’s the Chiarelli statement:

“After first being treated at the TD Banknorth Garden yesterday, Patrice was diagnosed as having sustained a concussion, and was admitted to Mass General Hospital under the care of Dr. Peter Asnis.

Since being admitted to MGH Patrice has undergone extensive testing, and all of the results have come back normal.  When examined this morning, his condition had improved greatly over last night, and he was released from the hospital. There is no timetable for his return to the ice.”

–In another bit of housekeeping, Aaron Ward and Petteri Nokelainen were both placed on injured reserve — a hockey transaction made with an eye toward calling up players from Providence prior to Tuesday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils. The B’s will have a two-day holiday break before heading back out onto the road for a three-game trip through Carolina, Atlanta and a Tuesday night special against the Penguins at the Igloo.

B’s suffer losses in 13th straight home win

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

It was a convincing 4-2 win for the Black and Gold against a Carolina Hurricanes team playing quality hockey heading into Boston, but the 13th straight victory at the TD Banknorth Garden also had its share of negatives. Patrice Bergeron went into Saturday still searching for ways to reclaim his hockey groove after missing nearly all of last season with a concussion, and yesterday’s game ended for him in the second period with another potential head injury.

Bergeron went zipping in for a hit on Carolina defenseman Dennis Seidenberg at mid-ice during the second period of Saturday’s win, but a freak thing happened on the way in for the clean hit. The right side of Bergeron’s face and head violently crunched into Seidenberg’s right shoulder as he attempted the finishing check.

The 17,565 in attendence went eerily silent as Bergeron fell to the ice chest-first in a heap and lay all-but motionless for several uncomfortable, agonizing moments. Bergeron’s story has been one of triumph all season long – despite the lack of overwhelming offensive production — but things took an ugly detour yesterday after only 7:53 of ice time in the game. It’s a sickening feeling to watch a hockey-crazed crowd of 17,000 fall into a silent haze when the dreaded head/neck injury drops a player to their knees, and that was the regrettable backdrop at the Garden midway through the second.

“All the noise and standing isn’t good for the player. We try to keep quiet. That is how I was brought up; you try to keep quiet when something like that happens,” said Manny Fernandez, who watched the Bruins’ medical staff and trainers attend to the fallen Bergeron before the 23-year-old skated off under his own power. ”But he was strong enough to get back on his feet by himself, which is a good thing. He was able to skate off on his own strength, so that is a positive.

“Like I said, we can’t think about that too much right now. We have to let the doctors take care of him. We will need him back. But I don’t think that other teams are going to take it easy on us because he is out of the lineup, so we have to concentrate on what is left and go from there.”

After the game, the Bruins said that Bergeron was still being evaluated and that the club wanted to be precise with the diagnosis for Boston hockey’s Golden Boy. The most revealing part of the information relay concerning Bergeron’s injury took place when coach Claude Julien spoke with the player between the second and third period. Bergeron himself told Julien he was “dinged up” after the collision with the Carolina blueliner, and Julien absolved Seidenberg of any wrongdoing in the situation.

“I saw it with my own eyes but I wanted to see if it was an elbow, a stick, or a shoulder,” said Julien. “It was not a cheap shot by any means, it was a collision.”

Dinged up or not, Bergeron was alert and the doctors were still evaluating him in the hours following the afternoon matinee. It was a far cry, however, from the Oct. 27, 2007 hit by Randy Jones that ended the skater’s 2007-08 season after only 10 games. It’s too early to rule it a concussion or start doling out meaningless and arbitrary dates that the skilled player might return, and the Bruins promised to release a statement once the doctors had given a final diagnosis.

 ”The doctors are looking at it and haven’t given us any indication as to the severity of it,” said Julien. “We’ve asked…they haven’t diagnosed him yet as to whether it is [a concussion] or is it not. He said he got dinged pretty good.”

Here is the hit. At this point, the only thing to do is send best wishes that it’s not something damaging enough to prevent Bergeron from playing the game he loves and cherishes:

Fourth Line Breakdown

Saturday’s win also featured a solid effort from the disparate members of the ever-changing Bruins ”energy line.” Stephane Yelle potted the empty net goal that iced the game in the waning seconds of the third period — his fifth score of the season –and registered three hits in victory. Rugged rough-housing Shawn Thornton scored the game-winning goal on an unassisted tally in the third period, registered a game-high six hits in a relentlessly physical effort throughout, and even had four shots on net to finish off the all-around performance.

Vladimir Sobotka also continued to add an aggravating sandpaper presence to pair along with Yelle and Thornton. Sobotka even stopped agitating long enough to feed a beautiful backhand dish that set up a David Krejci strike and handed Boston their first lead of the game in the third. The assists was Sobotka’s first point of the 2008-09 season.

“It is amazing how some guys that don’t score often, score against the same teams.  It was nice to see him get the winning goal,” said Julien of Thornton, who has feasted offensively on Carolina over the last few years. “If you have everybody over the course of a season playing a big role in a win, its nice to see those guys in the role of giving energy to our team, throwing hits out there, and trying not to get scored on, get rewarded.  Yelle got that fourth goal in the empty net, Thornton, and I thought Sobotka had a real good game on that line tonight.”

A little known tidbit about Thornton’s goal against the ‘Canes: he utilized a time-honored bit of puck chicaneary for the score. Thornton gamely called out “reverse” when Carolina defenseman Joe Corvo was handling the puck behind the Hurricanes net, and Corvo promptly obliged. With his back to the fourth liner hiding in wait alone behind the net, Corvo shoveled the puck behind him directly to Thornton. The B’s winger took the gift puck and zipped it past Cam Ward for his second goal of the season.

Was Thornton’s ruse a legal, above board hockey manuever, or was Thornton’s shout-out similar to the ploy A-Rod used screaming “I Got It!” to foul up the Toronto Blue Jays infielders two seasons? Thornton seemed slightly sheepish afterward when explaining his technique, but the 31-year-old didn’t seem to care how much it bothered the ‘Canes.

“They were going back for the puck and I kind of screamed ‘reverse’ to their defenseman and I think he thought I was their guy,” said Thornton. “He gave the puck right to me, and I think it went off [Ward's] stick and in. I dunno. I just buried my head for once and it finally went in for me.”

Is that acceptable behavior on the ice?

“Probably not…it might be a little dirty, but I don’t care,” said a laughing Thornton. “Dirty or wily, whatever way you want to look at it. [That doesn't] work too often. Maybe one out of a 100.”

Sounds of the game… Bruins 4, Hurricanes 2

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

While the Bruins were busy racking up their 13th straight home win, much of the focus afterward was for the well-being of Patrice Bergeron. His serious concussion last year had people wondering for not only his professional career but his long-term health. Then in the second period, he went to the ice after taking a hit int he neutral zone and was motionless while trainers tended to him. He eventually left the ice alert but was being evaluated after the game. As for the game itself, Marc Savard, Shawn Thornton, David Krejci and Stephane Yelle (empty net) all scored to lead the Bruins to the victory. They don’t play at home again until Jan. 1 against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Claude Julien on the status of Patrice Bergeron.

Julien said the Hurricanes gave the Bruins a stiff test.

Manny Fernandez said the Bruins seem to be getting the breaks on their current run.

Sturm out at least a month with knee injury

Saturday, December 20th, 2008
The Sturm Face has been shelved indefinitely by a knee injury...

The Sturm Face has been shelved indefinitely by a knee injury...

The Bruins will be without the services of left wing Marco Sturm for at least month with a left knee injury — a bit of bad news along with Patrice Bergeron’s upper body/head injury in a 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes this afternoon.

“[Sturm] will be out indefinitely,” said Chiarelli. “We don’t know yet [about surgery]. We have to further evaluate with the doctors.”

Julien said that the swelling needs to come down in the leg before the doctors will be able to better diagnose the injury, and determine whether the surgeon’s knife is necessary to repair the problem.

“Well, we’ve had a lot of practice [playing without Sturm] since that original injury,” said Julien. “We went without him for 12 games. It was obviously bad news that we got for his situatuon. It’s long term. Hopefully he’ll be back sooner rather than later. We’ve been through this road before…mostly last year. We’ve just got to keep playing hard and hope our teams stays as healthy as possible.”

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed that the “Sturm Face” will placed on LTIR for a minimum of 30 days retroactive to Thursday night’s game, and that offensively-skilled Martin St. Pierre, who can play center or wing, will be the call-up from the Providence Bruins.

“[St. Pierre] is having a very good offensive year and in the latter third of this season he’s played better two-way hockey,” said Bruin GM Peter Chiarelli of the Baby Bruin forward’s call-up, who has 10 goals and 25 assists in 30 games in Providence this season. “He deserves on merit to be called up.”

The leading scorer for the P-Bruins this season and second leading scorer in the AHL, St. Pierre has recorded a 10-25=35 line. His 25 assists lead the team and his 10 goals rank tied for second. This
is St. Pierre’s first recall to Boston this season.

The 25-year-old St. Pierre has appeared in 21 NHL games in his career – all with Chicago – and has tallied one goal and three assists. Signed as a free agent by the Blackhawks on November 12, 2005, St. Pierre was
acquired by the Bruins on July 24, 2008 in exchange for Pascal Pelletier. The 5’9’’, 185-pound Ottawa, Ontario native spent the majority of the 2007-2008 campaign playing for Chicago’s AHL affiliate in Rockford where he earned 21-67=88 totals in 69 games.

Sturm has appeared in 19 games this year for Boston and recorded 7-6=13 totals with a +9 plus/minus rating. Sturm led all Boston goal-scorers last year with 27 tallies.